Celtics-Heat review: Bass does his part

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Celtics-Heat review: Bass does his part

MIAMI Brandon Bass was among the handful of Boston Celtics players who spent time trying to guard LeBron James during the C's 120-107 loss.

James, who left the game in the second half with cramps, still managed to score a game-high 26 points to go with 10 rebounds.

Prior to the game, Bass spoke about the challenges that a player like James presents.

"Being that he's 6-8, 6-9 he can basically do it all," Bass told CSNNE.com. "He's quick, he's explosive. He's a tough cover, man."

And while Bass didn't exactly shut him down (who does?), there's was little doubt that Doc Rivers made the right call in deciding to start Bass at power forward ahead of Jared Sullinger.

Bass opened the season with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.

"I was happy with Brandon," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "He was terrific. Brandon had a great game. Hell, he should have played 40 minutes."

Rivers was disappointed that a number of his players did not come out and play with the kind of aggression needed to win.

Bass, according to Rivers, was one of the few exceptions.

"He was one of the aggressive ones," Rivers said.

Said Bass: "I just want to play my role to the best of my ability. There were some things I felt I needed to improve on, and I just wanted to do my part. I know without me being aggressive, I can't do that."

An aggressive Bass was certainly one of the keys to Boston keeping the game against the Heat relatively close. Here's a look back on some keys discussed prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Injuries forced Boston to go with small lineups more than they would have liked last season. Now, it's being done out of necessity. Even though Boston has the kind of size to go with more traditional lineups, their approach - and most of the NBA for that matter - is to go with your three best frontcourt players and not necessarily your top two forwards and a center. Boston's resurgence after the all-star break was fueled in part by Kevin Garnett spending more time at center. And the Heat's title run a year ago was aided during the playoffs by head coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to put Chris Bosh - a power forward in the same mold as Garnet - at center.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's small lineup didn't really make much of an impact until the fourth quarter. With Rajon Rondo, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Kevin Garnett on the floor, Boston cut a 16-point deficit down to just four points with just over two minutes to play. Leading the strong surge was the last guy to the team, Barbosa. He had 16 points in less than 16 minutes of playing time off the Celtics bench. "If you get into a scoring contest and Barbosa is on the floor, you feel pretty good," Rivers said.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Ray Allen: It's unlikely they will be matched up against each other tonight, but the friction that developed between them that factored in Allen's decision to leave Boston, makes any chance they are on the floor at the same time a must-see moment.

WHAT WE SAW: The two did match up with each other for a few possessions, but nothing of great significance erupted from those brief encounters. But in this first meeting, you have to give the edge to Allen. Although Rondo had more points (20) and assists (13) than Allen, the former Celtic who hit clutch shots in the first half that helped Miami take control. Allen had 19 points for the game, 13 of which came in the first half.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It has been an emotional year for Jeff Green who will play in his first regular season game in more than a year. His ability to continue showcasing the skills he displayed in the preseason can have a major impact on the outcome from tonight's game.

WHAT WE SAW: Stage fright. First-night jitters. LeBron James. There are so many plausible reasons that could help explain why Jeff Green struggled so mightily against the Heat. He finished with three points - all from the free throw line - while missing all four of his shots from the field. "I didn't think he was very aggressive," Rivers said. "Maybe we have to do a better job."

STAT TO TRACK: Balancing the highs of getting championship rings with the level-headed demeanor needed to win a game, will be a challenge for the Miami Heat tonight. If recent history is any kind of indicator, the odds are stacked in Miami's favor. Since 2000, teams that win NBA championships are 9-3 in the first game of the following season. Among those wins was a 95-90 win by the C's over a Cleveland team that was led by current Heat star LeBron James. Of the three losses, Miami was involved in two of them. The first came in 2006 after they won the franchise's first championship and were blown out by the Chicago Bulls. The second time was last season when they opened at then-defending champion Dallas and came away with the win.

WHAT WE SAW: Miami showed great composure most of the game while the Celtics looked like the nervous ones. "Our guys did, I thought, a good job of compartmentalizing and turning the switch as soon as it went to the warm-ups and competing and concentrating on the most important thing, which was playing this game to win and giving our fans something to cheer about," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''

 

Acciari nearing a return for Bruins after missing a month

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Acciari nearing a return for Bruins after missing a month

BRIGHTON, Mass. – He hasn’t been cleared to play just yet, but fourth line energy guy Noel Acciari is closing in on a return to the Bruins lineup. 

Acciari joined in for a Bruins morning skate for the first time in 14 games at the end of last week, and practiced with the team again Monday for a morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. The 25-year-old has missed almost exactly a month with a lower body injury, and said he can thankfully now see the light at the end of the injury tunnel for a healthy return to the B’s lineup. 

“It was getting lonely with all the guys on the road, and with me just skating with Frankie [Vatrano] and Zee [Chara],” said Acciari. “It’s great to be back out there with the guys, and it’s good to be back. Each skate I feel a lot better out there and just trying to get my conditioning back. Just being back with the guys is a great feeling, and it’s a big help.”

The fourth line has been okay in Acciari’s absence, but it seemed to be lacking the same kind of energy and hard edge the Providence College standout provided when he was healthy. That was part of what led the B’s to call up the similarly rugged Anton Blidh from Providence at the end of last week, and could provide some interesting energy line options when Acciari is ready to return. 

“I’ve played with [Blidh] before, I’m used to him and I know what he brings to the table just like he knows what I can do,” said Acciari. “So it would work out well [if we played together] I think.”

Acciari has two assists and a plus-1 rating along with four penalty minutes while averaging 10:01 of ice time in 12 games this season, and proved to be very good at unnerving opponents simply by playing all-out all the time.